The Ubiquiti RouterStation PRO needs a case

If you’re at all familiar with Ubiquiti Networks, you probably know they make an interesting assortment of high power wireless gadgets at an incredibly inexpensive price point. One product group consists of single board computers optimized for embedded wireless development & deployment. This line includes the LiteStation, MiniStation, WISPStation, RouterStation and RouterStationPRO.

Sadly, there are no indoor cases currently available for these boards, making deployment difficult unless you’re going to crank out 10K cases with a plastics manufacturer in Taiwan. This is where Netgate comes in. We’ve developed a metal indoor case for the RouterStationPRO, and we’d like your feedback on the prototype.

Here’s the prototype case (LARGE versions, not completely ready for prime time, please don’t repost)

Front
Back

Here are smaller pics for reference:RouterStationPRO prototype enclosure front

RouterStationPRO prototype enclosure rear

Note the six knockouts on the back for upto six RP-SMA sized antennas. There are also six holes corresponding to the LEDs on the board, however the LEDs are not immediately visible from outside the case, so we’ve added a provision for mounting a lightguide using the two knockouts on each side of the LED holes. (We think this is kind of a hack, so we definitely want your feedback on this idea.)

Some layout & design decisions were made based on the type of enclosure, comments made in the forum, and component layout on the board.

Please share your comments with us – we have a week to make changes prior to starting our production run. What do you think? Too many ventilation holes? Not enough antenna holes? White/Red/Yellow/Psychedelic instead of Black? We’d like to hear from you.

Thanks!

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16 responses to “The Ubiquiti RouterStation PRO needs a case

  1. Looks good!

    Black is good, no other colors would be necessary as far as I’m concerned.

    Ventilation looks reasonable, though until running one for a while it’s hard to say. It might be overkill but you want to err on the side of caution when it comes to that. In a warm environment (poorly ventilated server closets and things of that nature), with multiple radios, you’ll probably want that much venting.

    Re: the LEDs, I don’t see any possible way you’re going to get those visible on the exterior of a case without a light guide of some sort. That should be included with the case IMO. That’s the only way you’ll be able to reasonably tell which LEDs are which when the case is assembled. Unfortunately with no other NIC link lights, those LEDs are pretty important. Labeling them on the case would be nice too, as well as labeling the NICs themselves on the other side of the case.

    I don’t have any great ideas on improving the design for the light guide though. Appears the board is mounted to the bottom of the case and the side is permanently attached so the light guide can’t be permanently affixed to the case somehow. If I’m wrong about that, somehow permanently attaching the light guide without the punch out holes would be ideal.

  2. Looks great! All it needs is a nice NetGate logo now.

  3. Doesn’t look bad, the antenna knock outs are a great idea.

    I’m from the anti blue led brigade, so I’ll have green (power) red(cf/ide) and yelllow() alerting.

    Regarding the case design, make some of the cooling slots diagonal, alternatively even in the form of a arrow
    e.g. <> or // = =\\
    Just to break with the very square form of the thing.

    Add a small piece of aluminium to create a contact patch between the processor and outer case for eliminating any possible cooling issues in 35c wiring closets. It’s cheap to make, since even the most basic form of a square lump of aluminium will allow for heat transfer, possible require a dip of paste for contact patch.

    Regarding the light guide, don’t make the light go through small holes. The viewing angle on that would be horrible. Make sure the light guide reaches just through the hole so that it’s visible from the outside easily. You could even make the relatively large, or put them diagonal so that it looks like the cooling slots.

    Something like this in horrible ascii art.
    pwr wan lan0-3
    | / / / /

    The cost of the lighting guide would not change much, making the mold for the injection type plastic is by far the most expensive. For custom pieces that is. China is good at that. Although a mold might be a few thousand easy to make initially, parts would be around 2 cents per 1000 not taking the mold into account. A rather stiff trade off.

    The color of the case is not too much of a issue, black attracts warmth ofcourse, a dark grey or dark blue would be good. light colors would smudge too much in use.

    Add a sticker for the ports, display the ethernet ports numbering, display the voltage and amp rating for the power plug and show if the pin is hot or ground. Alternatively, if the case is dark, one can use a grinding tool to engrave the letters, the cnc bench that makes the cooling slots should have that tool. Although it would need to happen after coating the aluminium and possibly bending the aluminium. Stickers are by far the cheapest solution here.

    Use countersunk screws for closing the case instead of pan heads. This does not only look prettier, it also allows for easy stickering regarding warranty. You would not need holographic stickers that come apart around the case seem. A simple sticker over the screw head(s) would suffice.

    Hope this helps!

    Regards,

    Seth

  4. Seth,

    Black both attracts heat, and is most efficient at radiating it. Yes, the pan heads are ugly, and are already being replaced.

    I remain unconvinced that the light guide is a win, economically.

  5. The light guide, or some means of exposing the LEDs outside the case, is crucial IMO. Primarily because there are no other NIC link lights, and no other power indicators.

  6. I agree that a light guide or other LED exposure is critical. Every commercial router you buy has curcial to indicate at least something about what’s going on. Not including LED visibility with your solution would be a critical error IMHO.

  7. I’ve inquired at a friend of mine, it seems that it’s not as expensive to make as I first thought.

    The vacuum type moulding process turns out to be relatively cheap to do without requiring a entire shed of tools.

    You can make a mold for the lightguide using silicone and resin, which is the most common.

    Then you can create the plastic molds from that, still is a investment in the order of ~ $1000 but you can do it inhouse.

    It does not need a CNC mold to be succesful. On that note, small reasonably accurate CNC benches can be had for about the same price. But I digress.

    Perhaps even easier, try to find a existing lightguide in various spare parts catalogs and try and find one that fits or could easily be adapted.

  8. All public and private comments that have come back indicate LED exposure is a “must have.” This is the only thing holding us up on case production.

    We have a couple of people working on the issue, so I hope we’ll have a solution soon so we can get these cases into production! Your suggestions and ideas on this are very welcome. (Thanks, Seth!)

    One of the first things we did was go through the standard light guides / light pipes in Jameco, Digikey, etc… unfortunately they won’t work: The pitch is too tight and the angle of the lights on the board is completely custom. They should have either brought the lights out to the edge of the board at a 90 degree angle, or mounted them straight up.

    We also busted open some of the other UBNT equipment to see what they did… it’s pretty straightforward but definitely custom made. Unfortunately their existing light guide design won’t work for this case.

    Finally, I’m sure the guys in the warehouse would *love* to have a CNC machine. They’d be making custom car parts by the end of the first day. 🙂

  9. Just thought of the cheapest way possible to create a custom lightguide.

    Buy polycarbonate or plexiglass bars about 3 to 5 mm thick, you csan probably get those in lenghts of a yard or more.

    _
    \
    |

    Cut those up and use a heat gun to bend them into shape. Easiest to get consistent results is using something like a wooden mold to get the right angle, size and fit. That should allow for easy custom light guides.

    Alternatively, on the same concept, get square pieces of polycarbonate or plexi glass.
    Then create a cross section so that you can more or less stack multiple of those “squares” side by side for al the leds.

    That one is a bit more difficult to get right as you need to get the angle on the top correct so that it reflects and the sides also need to be polished so that it reflects the light through. One side needs to be sanded so that the light refracts and becomes easily visible.
    ___
    | \
    \___|

    Bad ascii art included, probably clear enough to get the point across.

    • Hi Seth,

      We’ve tried the polycarbonate/plexiglass cross section idea…it didn’t work out as well as we had hoped. We’re scheduled to talk with a custom plastics guy in town, however we’re at a standstill this week as our Industrial Designer working on this has H1N1. 😦

  10. hi!
    when this case will be on market? thanks

  11. Hey guys, Does anyone here know when the case will be released?

    Thanks
    ScarEye

  12. Any news on a release date?

  13. The case is a neat design and I’m about to get one. I wanted to know if you could actually construct a case that is similar to the enclosure of the famous wrt54g from linksys. That would be neat

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